This past Saturday, people living with diabetes and health advocates gathered outside the Indianapolis headquarters of pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly, one of the three major insulin manufacturers, to demonstrate for fair insulin prices. In the weeks leading up to the demonstration, T1International and People of Faith for Access to Medicines (PFAM) planned a peaceful but powerful, data and story-driven event to grab the attention of the insulin manufacturers, and the nation.
Insulin prices have been increasingly rising out of control and proportion; in 20 years the costs have climbed 1123%, while U.S. inflation stayed around 56%. People with insulin dependent diabetes in most income brackets are deeply struggling to pay for this life-sustaining medication, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars a month.
Protestors held signs that detailed their own personal struggles, as well as simple, yet attention grabbing phrases like Insulin=Life. It’s not complicated, stop the greed and Your prices are killing us. One attendee dressed as the grim reaper.
Jessie Howenstine, a PFAM representative and social justice activist for people struggling to access healthcare led the crowd in chanting. She used Facebook to stream the event live.
Some shared their stories by speaking to the crowd as a whole; others mingled and shared struggles one on one with each other. Individuals who have been impacted by diabetes, in some form, were able to bond and begin building a force that is only expected to grow stronger in the days to come. The battle is firing up and drug companies are taking notice; momentum is building within the community.
Even those not impacted by this particular drug are intrigued, as they know this fight can accomplish great things for healthcare in general. The internet is buzzing with the hashtag #insulin4all, and several news cameras came out to the event. Even people in passing-by cars yelled out in support, praising the efforts of those gathered on the sidewalk across from the extravagant Lilly campus.
Fran Quigley of PFAM started the speaking segment off powerfully, stating facts and statistics that solidify our side of the argument. He also presented the three asks to Eli Lilly that served as the building blocks of the #insulin4all demonstration:
- be transparent about profits
- reveal the manufacturing costs of one vial of insulin
- bring the price of insulin down
As a T1International advocate and person with type 1 diabetes, I shared my thoughts and personal story with the crowd as well. My life has been shaped by the high prices of insulin, and I always find myself wondering what the future holds. I spoke for myself, and every insulin dependent individual, while also sharing the story of the late Alec Raeshawn Smith, who died from rationing insulin.
Advocate Angela Lautner emotionally poured her heart out to the clearly moved crowd. She’s been through a great deal in her life as a person with type 1 diabetes, and is forging forward to speak out for change.
Mike Hoskins, a compelling writer for DiabetesMine and long-time advocate, delivered a strong speech about his journey. And Elizabeth Rowley, the founder of T1International and event organizer, continued to orchestrate and cheer on her fellow fighters from the organization’s base, in England. Her mother, father and sister were able to represent in person with signs, and event shirts that read Access to Insulin is a Human Right.
As for Eli Lilly’s response, they’ve referenced their help programs, but patients have been vocal about the difficulty of qualifying, and the companies own representatives have called them “bandaids.” Even meeting all qualifying criteria doesn’t guarantee any assistance. During her speech, Angela Lautner told us how she couldn’t get help from Lilly’s program when she needed it most.
Several organizations joined forces to make the event the successful beginning of a campaign to get pharmaceutical companies to lower insulin prices. People are now interested and more motivated than ever; many online supporters are eager to attend future protests. Next on the list: Novo Nordisk and Sanofi.